NEW YORK — The May Department Stores Co. has been barred by a federal appeals court from using the name "be" on a clothing line for young women.

Affirming a lower court’s ruling, the appeals court said it found that Bebe Stores presented enough evidence during the preliminary hearing to support its claim that the St. Louis-based chain was attempting to confuse customers and compete unfairly.

In October, Bebe, based in Brisbane, Calif., was granted a preliminary injunction by a federal district court in Missouri in its trademark infringement lawsuit against May Co. The lawsuit, filed in August, also alleged unfair competition.

Bebe said in its lawsuit that by selecting the trademark "be" and using an identical typeface and selling similar clothing to the same customer, May Co. confused customers as to the origin of the goods and competed unfairly in the marketplace.

After Dec. 31, May Co. stores will not be allowed to advertise, display or sell women’s clothing under the "be" label.

"Once again, we have been vindicated by the courts," Manny Mashouf, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. "We have said all along that May stores gained an unfair competitive advantage when it copied our name, clothing designs and store look and tried to sell to our customers."

He noted that Bebe’s sales have dropped since May Co. introduced its line this summer.

"This clearly shows that any success May stores had with this line is because our customers associated it with Bebe," he said.

Bebe reported its November same-store sales declined 15.1 percent and said it anticipates comps for the December quarter to be in the negative mid-teens.

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